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    Although there is no single, finite definition, the ‘Home Counties’ of England are generally understood to be the counties in the south east and east which border the capital city, London. These usually include the four eastern coastal counties of East and West Sussex, Kent and Essex, together with the five counties to the west of the capital: Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, Surrey and Middlesex. The area is usually perceived as being largely affluent, and commercially vibrant. As it surrounds the capital, the seat of English government since the thirteenth century, and an international centre for financial business, the Home Counties are also part of a ‘London-centric’ media, and there is much of historic interest within this highly-populated region. The capital is well connected to the outer reaches of the Home Counties by tube (underground train), overground rail, and road.

    London has its origins in pre-Roman times, when the town of Londinium was created on the banks of the River Thames. It has a wealth of beautiful and historic buildings, churches, art galleries and museums, with entertainments to suit all palates. In the words of Samuel Johnson, ‘when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford ...’

    Things to do in London and the Home Counties
    London has been a major settlement for more than two millennia, and any list of essential places to visit would be endless.  However, of particular importance are the four World Heritage Sites, of Kew Gardens, the Tower of London, the Palace of Westminster and Greenwich. All four are within easy reach of central London, the furthest only necessitating a short tube journey (Kew) or trip by river boat (Greenwich). The state rooms of Her Majesty the Queen’s London residence, at Buckingham Palace, are opened to the public each year during August and September, and have become another popular stop for visiting Summer holidaymakers.

    Some of the key museums in the country are to be found within a square mile of one another in South Kensington, along Exhibition Road. Most notable of these are the V&A (the Victoria and Albert Museum) and the washed-pink stones of the Natural History Museum. The Science Museum and the Geological Museum are also close by. Shrewd visitors may sometimes avoid the usual queues to the Natural History Museum by entering the building via the smaller, Exhibition Road entrance. Meanwhile, the extensive British Museum of antiquities and world artefacts is located to the north of the city, near to Oxford Street, in Bloomsbury. By way of contrast, a much smaller and less well-known, but highly-eclectic collection of items can be found nearby, within the Sir John Soane’s Museum in Lincoln’s Inn Fields. At Bethnal Green the Museum of Childhood displays a wonderful selection of children’s toys, and nearby, the Geffrye Museum specialises in the history of the English domestic interior, with fine collections of furniture and home objects. The main London home of the Imperial War Museum is housed in the old Bethlem (‘Bedlam’) Royal Hospital in Southwark, and visitors to the museum are greeted by two imposing 15-inch guns, which are located just outside its fine front portico.

    London’s art galleries are also world-famous and continue to be developed and expanded. Tate Modern on the South Bank of the Thames was opened in 2000 and displays modern art, including ever-changing, large-scale installations in its magnificent Turbine Hall. The National Portrait Gallery, adjacent to the much larger National Gallery in Trafalgar Square, offers a human face to art, and was the very first portrait gallery anywhere in the world when it opened in 1856.

    There is an amazing variety of churches in London, from the historic Romanesque majesty of Westminster Abbey, to the Wren grandeur of St Paul’s Cathedral, both of which contrast magnificently with the icy, 18th century simplicity of St Martin-in-the-Fields and Christ Church, Spitalfields, the latter recently restored and a particularly fine example of the work of the polymath Nicholas Hawksmoor.

    London also offers an unsurpassed selection of theatres and concert halls. London theatres are amongst the finest anywhere in the world. Visit ‘Theatreland’ in London’s West End, around Shaftesbury Avenue, near to Piccadilly Circus, to search out last minute tickets, whether you are looking for the latest Lloyd Webber musical, or the longest-running show in British theatre, the London production of Agatha Christie’s ‘The Mousetrap’. For eight weeks, from July to September, the BBC Proms season brings a wonderfully varied mix of music to the capital, many of the concerts taking place in Kensington’s stunning Royal Albert Hall.

    Top Destinations

    London Markets – One of London’s iconic markets, Portobello Road Market is held every Saturday, and is particularly well-known for antiques and second-hand clothes. Portobello Road is also home to one of the oldest movie cinemas in Britain. Once known as a local ‘flea-pit’ cinema, the Electric Cinema has been extensively refurbished and is now one of the most popular London movie palaces. Other vibrant London markets include the food-lovers Borough Market, the bric-a-brac of Brick Lane Market, the flower sellers of Columbia Road, and the collectables and popular culture on sale around the area of Camden Lock.

    Pegsdon Hills – To the north of the Home Counties, and just into Bedfordshire, lie the beautiful Pegsdon Hills, at the north eastern end of the Chilterns. The area of steep chalk hills and quiet valleys is now a managed Wildlife Trust nature reserve and a registered SSSI.

    St Albans – Lying 22 miles to the north of London, this Hertfordshire city takes its name from the first British Christian martyr, St Alban. It first came to prominence as the Roman town of Verulamium, the first major town on the old Watling Street route from London. St Albans Cathedral is one of the most notable local landmarks. The modern city is renowned for having the most pubs per square mile of any place in Britain.

    Chartwell – Once the home of Sir Winston Churchill, this fine house near to Westerham, commands spectacular views over the Weald of Kent, and is now run by the National Trust.

    Windsor – Those with an interest in the British monarchy may also wish to venture out beyond London and Buckingham Palace, to the other royal residence in the Home Counties, where the Queen often spends her weekends: Windsor Castle in nearby Berkshire is a fine mediaeval castle, near to the banks of the River Thames, and is the longest occupied palace anywhere in Europe. 

    Cliveden – An Italianate mansion on the high banks above the River Thames in Buckinghamshire, Cliveden was once the home American-born British MP, Nancy Astor. Made infamous in the 1960s as the setting for key events in the Profumo Affair, the property is now run by the National Trust.

    Oxford – The ‘City of Dreaming Spires’ is home to the oldest university in the English-speaking world, with many of its 38 colleges open to visitors in the afternoons. The world-famous Bodleian Library is the largest university library in the UK, and houses an unparalleled collection, with more than nine million printed items. Just beyond the city, visit Kelmscott Manor, the Summer home of the poet and craftsman William Morris, or the wondrous excesses of Blenheim Palace, one of the finest baroque houses in the country and the ancestral seat of the Dukes of Marlborough.

    Whitstable – Famous for its oysters, this Kent seaside town is still accessible from London by main line train and is popular with local holidaymakers. Part of the former local Canterbury and Whitstable Railway track (known fondly as the ‘Crab and Winkle Line’), is now open as a footpath and cycleway.

    Charleston – Halfway between Brighton and Eastbourne lies the fine country house that was once a meeting place for the writers, artists and intellectuals of the Bloomsbury Group. The house is open to visitors between the months of April and October. Two other local properties, Monks House near Lewes and Berwick Church on the South Downs, are also of great interest to followers of the Group.

    Brighton – This quintessential seaside town on the south coast in East Sussex has been a popular destination for Londoners since its heyday in the early 19thcentury, when the Prince Regent built the Royal Pavilion, with its distinctive Oriental domes. The town is now well-known for its vibrant arts and entertainment calendar.

    Sissinghurst Castle – Set in the ruins of a once-magnificent Elizabethan house in Kent, with the original front tower of the house a stunning centre piece, the magnificent gardens and estate are the work of writers Harold Nicholson and Vita Sackville-West, who first came to the largely derelict house in 1930, and set about constructing one of the finest gardens in England. The property is now run by the National Trust.


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    Cosy Cottage, which is made of traditional brick and flint, is an excellent base for exploring one of the most beautiful towns in England, Henley-on-Thames. Surrounded by the hills and fields of the Chilterns, this ...
    Bedrooms: 2
    Sleeps Max: 4
    Guide Price: ££

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    photo of Kingfisher , Arrington, nr. Cambridge, Cambridgeshire
    Ideal touring baseOriginally part of the famous Wimpole Hall Estate and built as a hunts lodge and stables in 1840, these properties are located only 1 mile from Wimpole Hall. The cottages have been restored to a very good ...
    Bedrooms: 2
    Sleeps Max: 4
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    photo of The Windmill , Wendover, nr. Aylesbury, All Buckinghamshire
    Enjoy a unique holiday in this detached windmill, built around 1800, now converted to provide comfortable spacious accommodation over 5 floors with spectacular views over the Chiltern Hills from the second floor sitting ...
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    photo of Woodrows Cottage , Aldworth, All Berkshire
    Standing in over two acres of paddocks and woodland, this comfortable cottage offers tranquil surroundings in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Now completely separate from the farm it was originally built to support, ...
    Bedrooms: 3
    Sleeps Max: 6
    Guide Price: ££
    Pets: pet friendly

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    photo of Woodpecker , Arrington, nr. Cambridge, Cambridgeshire
    Ideal touring baseOriginally part of the famous Wimpole Hall Estate and built as a hunts lodge and stables in 1840, these properties are located only 1 mile from Wimpole Hall. The cottages have been restored to a very good ...
    Bedrooms: 3
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    photo of The Barn , South Godstone, All Surrey
    On a country road one mile out of the village, this sympathetically converted barn offers beautifully furnished and very comfortable accommodation, with its own garden. Set in the countryside close to the owner's home and ...
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    photo of Kingshill Farm Cottage , Little Kingshill, nr. Great Missenden, All Buckinghamshire
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    Bedrooms: 3
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    photo of Suffolk House Annexe , Harrow, London, Greater London
    This delightful period annexe, adjacent to the owners home, is located in a quiet residential part of the exclusive area of Harrow-on-the-Hill - home of the famous school. The property has some charming features such as ...
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    photo of Colherne Mews , Chelsea, London, Greater London
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    Bedrooms: 2
    Sleeps Max: 4
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    photo of Kingshill Farm Studio , Little Kingshill, nr. Great Missenden, All Buckinghamshire
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    photo of Dartmouth House , Olney, All Buckinghamshire
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    photo of The Brills , Weston Turville, nr. Aylesbury, All Buckinghamshire
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